The shorebird breeding season is upon us and Council, along with Marine Parks and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), are stepping up efforts to protect endangered and critically endangered shorebird species who call Byron Shire home.
People are reminded that dogs are prohibited on Byron Shire beaches outside of designated dog exercise areas, year-round – and to help protect the shorebirds, Rangers and Enforcement Officers will be increasing their presence on all beaches in coming months and fining anyone doing the wrong thing.
“Keeping our dogs in the allocated off-leash areas on beaches is essential if we want to give these endangered shorebirds a shot at survival, and I hope the community gets on board with our action on this,” Council’s Coastal and Biodiversity Officer, Chloe Dowsett said.
“Shorebirds are under increasing pressure worldwide because they live in places that are popular for human recreation such as beaches, inlets and the edges of wetlands, and their nests are often just scrapes in the sand. If these birds are to survive it is up to us to learn how to share their habitats, be sensitive to their needs and not subject them to continual disturbances.
“If a parent bird is disturbed, it may abandon the nest and their eggs or chicks, which are particularly vulnerable to predation by roaming dogs or exposure to unfavourable temperature. Considering the beach stone curlew will typically only lay one egg per season as the chick stays with the parents for 7 – 12 months, these threats can have devastating impacts on the already struggling population.
“Byron Bird Buddies have confirmed that the endangered Pied Oystercatcher, critically endangered Beach Stone Curlew and the Red capped Plover are currently nesting within the fenced area at the mouth of the Belongil estuary. Birds have been observed sitting on eggs and also a couple of Red capped Plover chicks have recently hatched,” she said.
“The Belongil Estuary at the mouth of Belongil Creek is a vital site for resident and migrating shorebirds to rest, feed and, if given the chance, breed. Other important shorebird habitats in Byron Shire include the Brunswick Estuary, Seagull Rocks/North Wall Brunswick, the mouth of Tallow Creek and the Tea Tree Lake at Suffolk Park.”
“The birds are easily disturbed by walkers, joggers and especially dogs. We ask that people take extra care near shorebird habitats. Walk in the intertidal zone near the water’s edge, keep clear of any fenced areas established to protect shorebirds’ nest sites and if with dogs stick to the designated dog areas only,” Ms Dowsett said.
People ignoring signs and taking dogs into prohibited areas risk a $330 on-the-spot fine.